Sunday, April 29, 2012

The pornographic playground

Elder L. Edward Brown of the Seventy taught:

"You live in a world of technological miracles. You have access through the Internet to resources one cannot begin to imagine. However, lurking there as well is a sinister evil, as deadly as a rapidly growing cancer. If you allow this pornographic disease a place in your heart, the Spirit withdraws itself and, ere you are aware, you are left alone and vulnerable (see D&C 121:37). You must avoid that pornographic playground. The same self-discipline is required relative to the materials you choose to read and the videos you may select to view. Pornography is poison!" ("Bring Your Mission Home with You,Ensign, Dec. 2000, 18).

Want more? Find links to this and other amazing talks & articles under the spiffy little tab at the top of my blog.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A spoonful of sugar
It wasn't a particularly fantastic day. In fact, it was downright hard. Chilly. Rainy. My kiddos are sick, and so am I. Never did get out of my pjs. Found out this week that I've been replaced ... again. But you know, after spending all day wallowing in self-pity and consuming a ridiculous amount of unbelievably yummy home-made chocolate chip cookies, I finally shoved myself out the door -- yes, in my pjs -- into the wet, rainy cold, and took a walk. And while I walked I talked on the phone to someone who is very far away, but who is very close to my heart. (You know who you are. I LOVE YOU!) And while I walked and talked, something miraculous happened. I laughed. I haven't laughed in weeks. Maybe months. And as it happened, I felt the soothing bliss of it wash over my pain-stricken soul, across my heavily-burdened shoulders, and travel right down to my fingertips.

When I got home from my walk, my circumstance hadn't changed, but my attitude had. Everything isn't all better, but I can face it. And it's okay to smile.

“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds 
than any other one thing.” 
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baby steps

My baby is learning to walk, and so am I.

I used to know how, but I've been crawling around on my belly with my face in the dust for so long, that I've forgotten. So now I am watching, learning, and exploring along with him on this new adventure.

It began with an insatiable drive to reach for something higher. Something he couldn't get to while sitting on the floor. So one day, he extended a chubby hand, grabbed on, and pulled himself up. After that, a little bit more of the world was available to him. He was starting to gain control. Not much, but some.

Before I knew it, he was pulling himself along the furniture. He had learned to take steps. Assisted ones, but steps nonetheless. He learned to combine his own will power with his newfound mobility to gain access to what he needed.

And then one day, I knew it was time. I could tell by his wide stance -- his bare feet clinging to the hardwood floor, his tiny toes spread and white with the strain. His chubby fists clenched and his chunky little legs began to quiver. And as his pink, flushed cherub face turned upward, his furrowed brow softened and a spark flashed in his widened eyes. I could almost hear his little wheels turning: "Look at me! I am standing alone. I knew I could do it all by myself, and --" Plop!

Days passed. Weeks passed. I watched him return to his crawling and scooting motions. It was faster, more efficient. It got him where he needed to go. In an effort to encourage his progress as a biped, I began walking him around the house on a regular basis, his hands in mine. At first, he clenched my fingers tightly as he barreled through the various rooms and hallways. But after a few weeks, his grip loosened so much that I was sure he wasn't really leaning on me at all. So one day, as we were walking around, I let go ... and there he went. 2 steps, 3 steps, 4, 5 ... 10, 11, 12 steps. Plop! I watched the curly blond head spin around, and he gave me a toothy grin. He did it.

That evening, he couldn't get enough. It was like flying a kite. I'd get him started, and once the wind was in his sails, he would take off through the house. Again and again. He toddled around until his legs gave out and tiny beads of sweat glittered on the tip of his nose. His cheeks were rosy and warm when I scooped him up at bedtime.

Whenever I wonder if I can make it through this ordeal, I watch my little boy. After only a few weeks of practicing his new skill, he seems so much more stable and confident. His legs don't tire so easily now; his muscles are building. They are muscles he will use for the rest of his life. But what about me? Where am I in my "adventure" anyway? Sometimes I still have days when I'm scooting around on my belly, just trying to claw my way through the muck. Lots of days, actually. Even when I am getting around at all, I still feel like I'm holding on to the furniture. And I hate it. I'm a big girl, right? Why can't I just run already? Because that would require a path that's not paved yet, I guess. And because my muscles are wimpy and underdeveloped. And then there's the isolation of it all. Truth is, when I stand alone, my chubby little legs shake like a leaf. Sometimes I do stand alone. I stood alone when I got on that plane. But then -- Plop! I'm down for the count. It's just so dang hard to be patient. And you know what else hurts? My best friend. He's the one I would have gone to in times like these. The one who would've taken my hands in his and been my support to lean on until I could walk on my own. But this time ... he's the one that broke my knees in the first place. He's the reason I'm having to learn to walk all over again. That hurts. And who is going to scoop me up at bedtime? No one. I sleep alone now. That's just life.

But I have to look forward right? And I have to have hope that there are better days ahead. My muscles will get stronger. I will work off that baby fat. I will learn to walk again. I will learn to RUN! And I will stand alone. And I will be okay. I have to believe that. I watch my baby and I feel it burn in my soul. I must have hope. Hope and faith.

Faith in every footstep.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Small and simple things

Well, I did it! I actually finished reading a book. A small miracle. Know how I did it? I picked a short, manageable one, and then I stuck it in my truck and read a few pages each day as I was waiting in the carpool line at my little boy's school. Yeah, baby! So, I say, "Eat your heart out!" to the leaning tower of unread/half-finished, long-winded self-help books on my nightstand. I just finished a beautiful, elegant, yet small and simple one. And I loved it:

Small and Simple Things by Marjorie Pay Hinckley
Actually, I swiped the idea to read this book from Jacy's original journey on her old blog. I also saw a post by Nora this past weekend that reflected the same idea of slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life, and it touched my heart. (By the way, I happen to have the honor of knowing Nora personally, and she has an amazing talent for this.)

Life is hard. But. I'm trying to stop. Listen. Smell the air. Breathe in my little boys. Hold them. Stand still in time and just be. A lot of days, this book has reminded me how to do that.

Toward the end, there was a passage that has really stuck with me and helped me lately. So, I figured I'd share it:

We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives.
We have to decide what's important 
and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us.
We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something.
We have to learn to be content with what we are.

Thank you for the reminder, sweet Sister Hinckley. :)

photo credit

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lost in the city
Do you remember when you were little, how being dizzy used to be fun? Maybe it wasn't that way for you. But it was for me. My brothers and I used to play at it. We always seemed to make dizziness into a game somehow. One day we were hanging upside-down on the ratty beige couch in the living room, pretending to walk on the ceiling. The next we were spinning around like barefoot helicopters in the emerald grass, arms outstretched, staring at swirling puffs of cotton in the baby-blue sky. Ooooh, who can spin around the fastest in Dad's gigantic office chair without barfing and before we get caught? And what birthday party is complete without some kind of activity that involves a bandana-blindfolded dizzy kid flailing wildly with a pointy object aiming for a donkey's hiney or swinging a bat at some candy-filled amorphous animal? Yeah, back then dizzy was fun. Disorientation was associated with mystery and excitement, and nausea spelled adventure, right? Now? Not so much.

Disoriented? Yes. Exactly. That is precisely what I am right now. And can I just say? It is not fun. Not mysterious and exciting. Not adventurous. Not right now. Actually, quite frankly, right now? I HATE IT. Go ahead. Call me a weenie. Tell me that I'll come around. That I need to look at my life as a blank canvas and use this as an opportunity to find myself and do something significant, make a fresh start. I know all that stuff. I tell myself that, too. But, guess what? I've decided that sometimes I'm allowed to hate where I'm at too. Still, I admit, I do have a wee bit of perspective sometimes. Observe and partake of my wisdom. (Or the brief moment I experienced of it the other day. I figured I had better capture it so I could revisit it later ... in my not-so-wise, hateful type moments ... okay so maybe like now ... *sigh*)

As it so happens, I pretty much have absolutely no natural sense of direction. That might have something to do with the fact that I've rarely lived anywhere longer than about five years. So, here I am in a new place again, trying desperately to learn the lay of the land and basically failing miserably, as usual. Not wanting to break character, I took about an hour detour on my way home from a doctor's appointment last week and ended up downtown. And, just like every other downtown I've ever visited, the streets are laid out as though someone put down a piece of paper, drew a bunch of x's where the skyscrapers were going to go, then dropped a pile of spaghetti noodles on top and said, "Yep, that's where we're going to put the roads." (A friend of mine once described our downtown that way and I thought it captured the essence perfectly!) Oh, yeah. And don't forget that each of those roads needs to be one-way only. At first, I panicked. What? I thought. I'm not supposed to be here. Then I struggled. How do I get out of here? Where am I? I don't know where I am! Then I started to worry about my safety. I don't know where I'm going! I missed the way back to the highway! What if I end up in a sketchy part of town? Are my doors locked? My phone is almost dead! Help! Then I just had to pray and drive. It was the only thing left to do.

After circling around seventy-five different city-blocks for what felt like an eternity and listening to my GPS announce the word "recalculating" for the five-hundredth time, something happened to me. I began to submit, and to stop and look out the window. And I saw more than the roads. I saw the people in the city. The construction worker in his dirty white hard hat and day-glow vest pausing to wipe the sweat off his brow. The college student cycling by in a shirt, tie, slacks -- a red backpack slung over his shoulder. The slender dark-suited woman clicking her high heels through the crosswalk while talking on her cell phone. The two chums chatting while walking a fluffy golden retriever through the streets. All of them seemed so busy. So purposeful. And suddenly I felt even more lost and alone than when I'd been concentrating on the roads. What am I doing here? I thought. They all know why they are here. They each have a purpose. They are working or walking or going to school or chatting with a friend. I am just lost. I am just a wanderer. I have no real purpose. I don't belong here. I tasted the salty sting of the tears as they burned down my cheeks. And I let them fall. I embraced that moment of self-pity. Because it's okay for me to mourn what I have lost. I've left everything I've known behind -- my friendships, my life, my marriage, my home. They have all been destroyed. Broken and shattered beyond repair. I have to pick up the pieces and use them to build something new and different. Because what I have left behind can never be rebuilt. It would be like trying to rebuild a tree from the ashes remaining after a forest fire.

The images through my car windows blurred as I wept. I felt angry and broken and lonely. And so lost. Lost in the city, in so many more ways than one.

Then something funny happened. I went over a bridge. There is a massive river that runs through our downtown. And I was struck by the majesty of it. I looked down at the rapids and was caught up for a moment in the sheer beauty of the view. It lifted my spirits a little. And I let it. Feeling empowered, I turned off my blasted GPS and decided to trust my gut (eeek!) and try to feel my way through. Would you believe it? I actually managed to turn another corner. And I came upon yet another unexpected sight -- an enormous stretch of rolling almost-florescent early spring grass and exquisite flowers that nearly took my breath away. Actually it was all I could do to not ditch my car and go running through it in my bare feet.  Even now, my heart is racing at the thought of taking my little boys back there to romp around. It seems there is a city park in the middle of our downtown! And quite a sizeable one at that. Who knew? So, in the end, I drove in a few more circles. So what?  Do you know? I actually started to laugh at one point. I was so lost. But, I decided -- I decided -- to stop, chill out, smell the flowers if you will, and laugh about it. And you know, I got home later than I expected. But I did get home. And I was really lost out there. But I couldn't change that. So I just dealt with it the best way I knew how.

I hope I can do that with my life.

At the very least, I can give it a shot, right? And whenever I'm feeling angry, weepy, lost, hateful, bitter, or just plain MAD AT THE WORLD (which is allowed, by the way) perhaps I will just come back here and partake of my little epiphany.

Faith in every footstep.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Beautiful heartbreak

I saw this video on of our sisters' blogs quite a while ago. She hasn't blogged in several weeks now, and I am starting to worry about her. I hope she is okay. This song is so beautiful, and the accompanying visuals melt me. The whole thing really touches my soul in deep places every time I watch. Have you seen it? I hope I will get to the point the song is talking about someday.

Today was one of those days. It was so painful, my heart was so broken, my soul was so shattered, that it was hard to breathe. It was hard to walk. More than anything, I wanted to crumple into a trembling heap, soaking the world with my tears. But I didn't. I made it through another day. And I will do it again tomorrow. And the next day too.

I'm starting to learn. Everyone has a story. The other day, one of my good friends said, "Treat everyone as if they are going through a tragedy in their life, and 80 percent of the time, you will be right."

If nothing else, my trials are teaching me compassion. At least, I'm trying to let them mold me into something better. One step. One. step. at. a time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A little piece of heaven

You might have noticed (or you might not have) that I closed up shop for a bit and then reopened without much of an explanation. And I'm not really going to give much of an explanation now either, except to say that ... this blog is not the safe place I thought it was. However, instead of having an all-or-nothing attitude, I've made some minor adjustments and other than that I'm going to continue to do my thing, whether I have complete privacy or not. Know why? Because I need this. And I need you to hear me. And it's time for me to start standing up for myself for a change, and having something that I want because I think it's what's best for me is a step in the right direction! What a revelation, right? So. I'm back. Hello! I've missed you! 

While I was away for what I believe was about a week, but what felt to me like about a month, I had some time to reflect on why I started doing this in the first place and what I want to get out of it. My original purpose -- which is now clearly outlined in a stand-alone page as indicated by a fancy-schmancy tab at the top of my blog -- was to help others locate resources to battle pornography. I have been at such a loss for so long as to how to deal with this issue myself! And I wanted to help others find their way. The funny thing is ... as I started building my site and trying to help others, others really started helping me. You ladies know who you are. 

At the risk of being totally sappy and sentimental, I want to take a quick second to say thanks. Thank you to all of you who take the time to pour your hearts out, to share your pain, to bear each other's burdens, to lift up the hands that hang down, to be open and honest, and to just ... be there. It means more than you know to more people than you know.

Okay! So! On with the show! I would like to take a moment to share something that might go overlooked but that is actually very significant on my newly revamped little spot. It's behind my header at the top of my blog. It's my little piece of heaven

Now, at first glance, this graphic element may appear to be a mere clip I swiped from google images or some such. But it is NOT! In fact, that unbelievably blue sky and those cotton-puff clouds are untouched and cropped from one of my very own photos! Believe it! That picture was taken at the top of an enormous mountain, probably higher than most people will ever climb in their lifetime. And I was there! And I saw that sight with my very own eyes. I felt like I was on top of the world on that warm, breezy summer day. The view was spectacular and so quiet. If I could've, I would have wrapped my arms around it and brought it home with me in my pack, all of it -- the brilliant sunshine, the wind against my body, and the massiveness of the world below me ... and that baby-blue sky and those cotton clouds. But instead I settled for a photograph. And now I'm sharing it with you. Well, a little bit of it at least. :)

I've heard of holy men through the ages communing with the Lord on the "tops of the mountains." And I suppose that thought had crossed my mind when I included this little piece of heaven on my blog. But besides that, the time of life when I had this experience is significant too. Things seemed heavenly then. And it's not just because I was closer to the sky. Things were simpler then. Simpler in our life together. Simpler in our marriage. Before infidelity. Addiction had already raised its ugly head several years before, but I thought we were winning. We seemed to be on the right track. We were so much happier then. All was right in the world. The Spirit was in our home and in our relationship. We were a team. When I look at this strip of sky, I remember that feeling. That feeling of peace and love and strength. And hope and happiness. When I look at my blog now, I see my little piece of heaven and I breathe deeply, and I remember, all was once right in the world, and it can be again. If I just have hope and keep going. Day by day. I'll get there. I'll get my little piece of heaven back.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What am I supposed to look like?

Lately, things are such a blur. But every once in a while, there is a moment of clarity or deep reflection. Like stopping in the middle of hanging clothes to peer at myself in a full-length mirror. Do you ever stop and look? I mean really look. The other day, I did. And I wondered ...

What am I supposed to look like?

Sorry if this comes out like a really major dirty laundry list. But I'm hoping that by putting it out there, I'll be able to make some sense of it all and maybe do something about it. Here are some concerns/issues/problems I've been dealing with on the body image front:

Hair and makeup. I like to look nice. And I know how to do my makeup. Hair? Uh. I guess I don't get it. Mine's a little wild and semi-curly, so I tend to scrunch-and-go or pull it into a bun or ponytail. In my past life I was very self-conscious and done-up a lot of the time. Okay, every day, always. In high school and college, I would do a touch-up to my face between every class. Now? Not so much. Actually, I've sometimes prided myself on this fact because I've felt like I'm so much more "wise and mature" now and so much more "comfortable with myself" than I once was. But let's face it. I have two crazy boys and have been an in-cognito semi-single mom for about five years (dad was not always such a willing party on the family scene). Taking care of my hair and makeup just hasn't been a priority for a long time. I always come last after tying shoes, bath time, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, carpool, music lessons, school, laundry ... you know the drill. In the end, I wonder whether it really just comes down to not taking care of myself rather than being "confident" and "natural." And I'm really torn about whether this is something I should work on. And don't get me started on the number of times I've wondered whether not working on it led, at least in some small way, to my husband's porn addiction -- which I KNOW is ludicrous. But I can't help thinking it...

Food. Okay. The boys and I moved in with my parents about two months ago. In the first 6 weeks I lost about 6 pounds. Not on purpose. I just didn't have an appetite and was incredibly sick and nauseated. (I'm pretty sure this happened after the first affair, too. I distinctly remember, the day after I found out, having to rush to the bathroom at a restaurant and vomiting in the middle of dinner. Fun times.) Then after that first month and a half, the binge eating began. Anything chocolate. Anything sweet and especially fresh out of the oven. Down the hatch. All day. Late at night. Lots of breakfast cereal any time, day or night. Comfort food. More comfort food. Gimme, gimme, gimme. *sigh* At least I know this pattern is not an isolated one. (Thank you for your post, Munchies of a Betrayed Wife, back in the day, Jacy!) Anyway ... after about 8 weeks, I've decided I'm really done being on the emotional eating cycle. At this point, it truly is approaching bulimic proportions. So I'm committing now, on a public forum, to give up my seat on the roller-coaster. I just can't take it anymore.

Media. I totally get this one. I do. Warped female images in the media mess with our minds. Trying to emulate them is incredibly unhealthy on so many levels. Blah, blah, blah ... I know the theories behind what's happening on those billboards and in those ad campaigns! And I also know of some great people fighting back. (If you're not familiar with Beauty Redefined, check them out!) I understand all of this with my brain. It's just really hard to feel it in my heart -- in my core. I guess I just haven't absorbed it all to the point that I "get" it. Does that make sense?

My reflection. This has been a really weird one since I left my husband. For the first few weeks, I actually couldn't even look at myself in the mirror naked. Sorry if that's TMI. It's true though. Even though I wasn't the one who had committed adultery, when I looked at myself, I felt a sharp, cutting shame that made me want to turn away, to cover up. I hadn't anticipated that feeling and was very startled by it. To this day, I'm not really sure what to make of it. Anyhow, I followed the advice of my therapist and took a jacuzzi bath with epson salts in an effort to have a "healing, rebirth" experience (as hippie-esque as that sounded :) ), and things have been getting better since then. I admit that, as always, it's hard for me to see the positive when I look in the mirror, but I figure that's pretty typical for a woman, right? At least the feeling of shame has started to dissipate.

Photographs. Looking in the mirror bothers me, but that feeling doesn't hold a candle to the utter self-loathing I feel when I look at a still image. I don't know what it is, but every time I see a current photo of myself, my eyes well up with tears. I don't feel like that all the time when I'm walking around experiencing my life. But somehow, when someone manages to capture and freeze me in a moment of time, I feel self-conscious and really disgusting. And I tend to wonder, "How did I not realized that I looked like that at that moment?" It's so self-destructive I know. In all honesty, I've actually started avoiding the camera rather than going through the psychological trauma of having to look at myself later. And the weird thing is, in that smart brain of mine, I understand that I'm not incredibly repulsive, but I can't seem to help having a near panic attack when I see those current pictures. Another weird thing? Often, when I see old pictures, I think, "Wow, I looked really good back then. Why didn't I realize that I looked good back then? I wish I had enjoyed it then!" It has always been this way, for as long as I can remember. So weird.

Physical trauma. My poor body. It has been through so much. Just in the past three years, I've had a car accident (resulting in full-body whiplash and a softball-sized pancreatic cyst), major abdominal surgery (pancreatectomy/spleenectomy), a pregnancy, and a c-section (less than a year after the pancreatectomy, and my second c-section, too). Once upon a time I was super fit. In my opinion, exercise is awesome for so many reasons, not the least of which is stress relief. And unfortunately, because of my recent medical history, vigorous exercise is something that has been out of my reach for what seems like eons. In short, I have been in survival mode for a long time. When I don't work out, you better look out, if you know what I mean. Since all these injuries and surgeries, I feel like such a  slug and a wimp when it comes to physical activity. I'm just starting to get to the point that I can work up a good sweat again without majorly paying for it. I know I've come a long way, but it's really, really hard to be patient with myself! And I feel humongous. Yuck.

Bouncing back. Do you ever get the feeling that we, as women, are expected to go through these major life changes and then just -- *BOING* -- bounce back to where we were, what we used to look like, like nothing has happened? That is where I'm at. I've been through multiple crises -- like I said a big old, long dirty laundry list. And now I am wondering ... Do I have to just move on and accept the mid-thirties, heavier, more big-chested, divorced, single-mother-of-two version of me? I mean, how depressing does that even sound?! I would say I prefer to be "thirty and flirty and thriving," (13 Going On 30, my generation!) but that description kind of makes me want to gag at this point, too.

Weight and clothing sizes. To be honest, I'm not really sure what's realistic at this point. I know what size I used to wear. I know how much I used to weigh. But now I'm turning 32 and I've had 2 children and I've had 3 surgeries and I'm on X number of medications. I mean, what's my goal supposed to be here, people? Ideally, I'd like to fit into the jeans I was wearing before I had my last baby! Is that going to happen? I'd like to think so. I guess the best thing to do is just give it a shot.

What is the healthy way? There are so many fad diets out there. I would love to do this fast! Right now! But I'm not sure that's the most healthy way. And I'm also not sure it would stick anyway. So, the plan is limit the calories, increase the exercise. That's pretty straightforward, right? I have a food/calories diary and exercise log. I'll give it a try for 4 weeks and see how it goes!

Well ... there it all is in black and white! No more starving, vomiting, or binge eating. Got it, nerves? It's my turn to control you -- not the other way around. Down with the comfort foods! More carrots! And crying no longer counts as exercise! I'm getting my fanny to the gym 3 times a week, minimum. Plus, how GORGEOUS is the weather right now! I can totally walk outside a few times a week this time of year. That's it! I'm committing!

Count on a check-in next Monday, Re: self-image, nutrition, exercise, weight/size check. Fair enough?


Whoah-whoah-whoah-whoah ... wait a minute! Hold the phone! Did you see how I just did that? I was just re-reading my post and getting ready to sign off, but then I started to think ...

I began the post with a conundrum, I made a list, I promptly convinced myself I had come up with a reasonable solution, and I was ready to go off on my merry way. Plus, the solution was a weight loss plan. And I have started to puzzle about just that fact alone. I mean, what about where I started? What about the real subject of the brainstorm? I didn't start out talking about weight loss, did I?

Here's the real deal: I am at a huge cross-roads in my life right now, and I have a chance to make some big changes for the better if I embrace the opportunity I've been given. That being said, I obviously have some major body image issues to sort through. It would be really huge for me to make strides in this area because it's something that's disrupted my life on sooooo many levels (psychological, physical, sexual, you name it ... ) for as long as long as I can remember. But you know what? I don't think losing some weight is going to solve all my problems. I've done that before. I've gotten down to an "ideal body weight," and like I said, I've gotten to a place where I really looked good (or at least I could admit it to myself when looking at pictures years later). But I think my problem is bigger. And I think maybe this is a really great time to pause, take a look, try to wrap my mind around it, and really conquer it ... whatever that may mean.

So my conclusion:

What am I supposed to look like?

At this point in my life, I have no idea. And I guess that's okay. I'm just going to keep taking it a day at a time, and I suppose I'll figure it out eventually. As for the weight loss plan? Meh. Sure! Why not? Maybe it will help with my self-esteem issues, anyway. And it will definitely be healthier in the long run. Whether I will get back into my jeans? Hah. We shall see. I guess a girl can hope. ;)